Personal rabbinical documents reveal their thoughts & queries

Treasure trove of documents from rabbinical figures from the Chasam Sofer to Lubavitcher Rebbe going up for auction.

Shlomo Ben-Yissachar,

Lubavitcher Rebbe - Chabad photo
Lubavitcher Rebbe - Chabad photo
INR staff

Whether reading their biographies or reviewing their halachic responsa, rabbinical luminaries such as the Chasam Sofer or the Lubavitcher Rebbe instinctively pique the interests of many youngsters and adults alike. But there is a world of difference between reviewing a responsa within a printed sefer and actually holding the handwritten responsa penned by the aforementioned gedolim themselves.

Within the realm of today’s expanding world of Judaica memorabilia, it is possible to purchase rare, one-of-a-kind handwritten letters and responsa from rabbinical giants. Suffice to say, it is a unique investment that will increase in both monetary and spiritual value through the ages.

These documents are most often made available through auction houses such as Kedem, which has offices in Jerusalem and New York. During their forthcoming February 7th auction in Jerusalem, a myriad of letters, documents and response will be made available to the public.

Amongst the intriguing items up for sale from the ‘world of Chabad’ are:

*Proofreading leaves with notations and corrections in the handwriting of Rav Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, (the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe), prior to the printing of his revered sefer “Reshimot Al Megilat Eichah” in 1952. The printed sheets, which are cut into 7 long narrow strips are glosses and corrections written in pencil from the “Rebbe.”

*A Rosh Hashana letter written and signed by the Rebbe in Elul 1953, wishing klal yisroel a “Good Sweet Year, materially and spiritually.” He also wishes success in the study of revealed Torah and “Chabad.”

*Perhaps the most compelling ‘Chabad’ memorabilia is a collection of documents, which shed light on the efforts of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, (also known as the ‘Rayatz’) and his Rebbetzin Nechama Dina’s efforts to acquire U.S. citizenship in 1949. The collection contains official letters and documents from the archive of the Rebbe’s personal lawyer, who represented him in all matters related to the citizenship process. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, who arrived in the USA in 1940 from Europe at the outset of WWII, purchased the 770 building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn a few years later, and transformed the edifice into the center of Chabad Chassidism.

The writings of the Chasam Sofer (born Rav Moses Schreiber) are considered to be so holy that gedolim, ranging from Rav Mordechai Bennet, to Rav Eliezer Shach, have said that just touching the handwritings of the illustrious sage are a “segula for Yirat Shamayim.”

Several handwritten items from the Chasam Sofer and his son, Rav Shimon Sofer, available for sale during the auction include:

*A leaf of Torah novella for Parashas Vayishlach and Parashas VaYeshev (Shabbat Chanukah), which were written in Pressburg (Austro-Hungary) 1833. Of particular interest in Parahsas VaYeshev, is the Chasam Sofer’s discussion of the well-known question of the Beit Yosef regarding the 8 days of Chanukah.

*A proclamation of an impending marriage, which was dubbed in its day as a “wedding bann”, signed by Rav Shimon Sofer, , the son of the Chasam Sofer, who was the Chief Rabbi of Krakow, Poland in 1861. This was the minhag in Poland and other parts of Europe when Jewish couples wanted to get married. Rav Sofer also served as one of the spiritual leaders of Galicia and was a member in the parliament of Vienna, an engrossing fact that most people are unaware of.

These types of auctions are not only once in a lifetime opportunities to study these rare documents but also an opportunity to actually possess a piece of our illustrious history.

Torah leaf written by the Chasam Sofer Shlomo Ben-Yissachar
Proofreading leaves with the notation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlomo Ben-Yissachar